Pentagon Changed Military Commissions Rules To Legitimize Drone Program

May 28, 2010 12:00 am

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Targeted Killing Program Remains Illegal, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – According to a report by the New York Times today, the Obama administration changed a new manual on military commissions rules to accommodate its illegal drone program. Under the old rules, “murder in violation of the laws of war” was defined as killings by people who did not meet “the requirements for lawful combatancy,” which would have suggested that CIA drone operators – who are not members of the military and do not wear a military uniform – could be charged with war crimes for killing individuals using drones.

The American Civil Liberties Union maintains that the U.S. program of targeting and killing people, sometimes far from any battlefield, with little oversight or transparency is illegal regardless of the military commissions rules.

The following can be attributed to Jonathan Manes, Legal Fellow in the ACLU National Security Project:

“Attempts to fix the military commissions rules to protect drone operators completely miss the point. Targeting people for killing outside armed-conflict zones is illegal regardless of who operates the drones, except in narrow circumstances where lethal force is used against a person who poses a genuinely imminent threat of death or grave physical harm, and there are no other means available to prevent that threat.

“Changing the rules in order to accommodate CIA drone strikes underscores the flaws in the entire ‘global war on terror’ paradigm. The entire world is not a battlefield. The government cannot use quintessentially warlike measures – deploying missiles and other offensive force – anywhere in the world that it believes a suspected terrorist might be located.”

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